Book Reviews

Head to Head (Nerds vs Jocks 3) by Eli Easton and Tara Lain

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Students/Teachers/Professors / New Adult / Romance
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 07-June-2021

Book Blurb

If these two don't kill each other, they might fall in love.

Rand hates Jax because he’s the laid-back, vegan-eating, tree-hugging, total-Zen-until-I-get-a-chance-to-screw-you president of Sigma Mu Tau, the nerdy fraternity that’s the sworn enemy of Rand’s house, Alpha Lambda Alpha. What a phony!

Jax hates Rand for being the privileged, rich-heir-to-an-oil-empire, environment-destroying, soul-sucking president of the ALA jocks—but mostly because Rand hated him first. Rand has sent nothing but hateful vibes his way since the day they met. What a douche!

The enemies have never had a single conversation that didn’t involve shouting—until Jax’s old Buick breaks down on a road trip and Rand plays reluctant rescuer. Jax is forced to sit on Rand’s dead cow seats. Rand learns chickens can enter the living room and that Jax’s beliefs are more than skin-deep. The bitter rivals embark on a quest to save a family member and discover that sometimes animosity is a mask for crazy-hot attraction. With this much face time, head-to-head might become heart-to-heart.

 

Book Review

Let’s start with a query (i.e., a question, not the man cruising you at a bar!): What constitutes a series in gay lit? And what is it about a series that establishes the readers’ loyalty and financial commitment? Is it common characters and their changes? Or a continuing story plot? Or perhaps the involvement of previous places and problems? I ask as, not for the first time, I’m being tasked to complete a review hat trick, opining with reference to the third volume in a series. Yet ‘Head to Head (Nerds vs Jocks 3)’ seems to be the odd one out. Prior volumes were more humorous in approach, lightly (but persistently) sexy, and even frothy (another word for silly?). This ultimate installment grows into a more serious take on young romantic relationships, particularly as developing between two such disparate main characters who start with antagonistic feelings for each other. The authors have used their fine talents to turn a comedic setup, and the main characters, from soap opera into a well-constructed, serious study of maturation, with its attendant drifting and displacements. Don’t let that put you off, as the piquant use of language persists and the end product is quite a wonderful read.

 

While the earlier installments focused on the college dean’s effort to pacify the rivalry between athletic (jocks) and intellectual (nerds) fraternities – generating fun and sex, this installment lasers in on Rand and Jax, the two fraternity heads, on the eve of their college graduations. They seem to be opposite sides of a coin. Even their fathers – for Rand, a fracking corporate execute and, for Jax, an environment attorney – further color their differences. Sharp humor is present throughout the story, much to my pleasure. Example: Jax observing Rand: “He was practically magnificent in his asshattery. If there were a Greek god of being an ass, it would be (him).”

 

As in a Frank Capra movie, a serendipitous event pairs Rand and Jax on a road trip. And as their differences become more obvious, so too does their mutual attraction. Quirky events give bases for their relational convergence. No surprise! Interesting and odd family members are introduced as delicious spices into the stew. By midway through the novel, the evolving presentation of the heroes has the direction of the story veering from light entertainment to the serious exploration of developing maturity: from competition, then confrontation, mystery and revelation – and ultimately to attraction and affection. Welcome to the hard choices imposed on incipient adults. New points of view are used to challenge the reader, by now well captured. Two families, light years apart, are presented and excellently explored.

 

The descriptions of their sexual interaction are so on point for their age and situation. After their first visit to coitus-land, Jax asks: “May I ask how many times you’ve done that?” Rand replies: “I’ve done it twice. ... Or it will be twice after we do it again later.”

 

The authors have done something wonderful, making their heroes grow from stereotypes, suitable for books one and two, into genuine people whom we can well recognize and whose joyful HEA we enthusiastically root for. If I were to offer a friendly warning, it would be to expect the exquisite difficulty of reading the book’s satisfying ending through tears.

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author via GRRT for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 312 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 25-May-2021
Price $4.99 ebook, $12.99 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Head-Enemies-Lovers-Proximity-Romance-ebook/dp/B08XZPR3DL